January 04, 2022

Minority Housestaff Organization gala celebrates progress, growth, commitment to EDI

Dr. Lovelee Brown, left, and Dr. Christina Harris speak at the Minority Housestaff Organization Gala

'The gala was a celebration of the gifts we can give minority housestaff and the people who make our organization what it is,' said Reza Hessabi, MD, a resident physician at UCLA Health

The Minority Housestaff Organization (MHO) honored winners of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion innovation and travel grants with an inaugural gala and reception, Dec. 17, hosted in part by the UCLA Department of Medicine’s EDI Office. The event, at the UCLA Fowler Museum, featured entertainment from UCLA’s student-run Groupo Folklorico and several UCLA undergraduate musicians.

The UCLA MHO was established six months ago, co-founded by Lovelee Brown, MD, and Michel Mensah, MD, MPH, with support from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Graduate Medical Education and UCLA Health.

It aims to recruit, develop and advance physicians from historically under-represented racial and ethnic groups in medicine, as well as advocate for the communities that helped raise them. The organization comprises 80 diverse minority physicians and allies whose goals are to advance equitable health for all patients, champion diversity in medicine, sustain mentorship in academia and health care, promote inclusion within the clinical learning environment, and transform the greater Los Angeles community.

Daniel Okobi, left, Elizabeth Heredia and Dr. Lawrence Benjamin
Daniel Okobi, left, Elizabeth Heredia and Dr. Lawrence Benjamin

At the gala, the organization awarded housestaff with travel grants, which will send six members to the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) national conference and Student National Medical Association (SNMA) national conference.

The MHO EDI Innovation grant, which sponsors several projects in the health equity space, awarded winners $3,000 to support their projects.

Event recap

MHO co-presidents Cecilia Canales, MD, MPH and Daniel Okobi, MD, PhD, introduced Christina Harris, MD, associate vice chair, Department of Medicine for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, to open the evening.

Following dinner, emcee Jennifer Bailey, MD, introduced the Community and Professional Development Committee, discussed the awards and thanked the Department of Medicine – particularly Cristina Punzalan, program manager in the Department of Medicine for EDI and Anais Gascon, program coordinator in the Department of Medicine for EDI, for organizing the event.

Following the evening’s entertainment, the Health System Equity committee gave a special thank you to Dr. Briggs-Malonson for her support of the EDI grants.

Winners of the EDI Innovation Grant:

  • Brittany N. Burton, MD, MHS: Digital Divide: Disparities in Patient Perception of a Preoperative Telemedicine Bariatric Surgery Program. Mentors: Laleh Jalilian, MD; Maxime Cannesson, MD, PhD
  • Daniel Gonzalez, Kevin Truong and Daniel Stokes: Improving Care for Patients on Medi-Cal at the UCLA Santa Clarita Clinic: A Step Towards Expanding Access and Improving Quality within UCLA Primary Care for Medi-Cal Patients. Mentors: Dr. Gifty-Maria J. Ntim; Dr. Ana Rivera 
  • Nikko Gonzales MD (with collaborators Mary Obasi and Maria Garcia-Jimenez): Assessing Perceptions and Understanding of Colon Cancer Screening Among Racial and Ethnic Minorities Experiencing Housing Insecurity in Los Angeles County. Mentor: Sarah R. Goldgar, MD 
  • Khalda Ibrahim, MD: Leveraging Informatics Tools to Ensure High-Quality Transfusion Support for Patients with Sickle Cell Disease. Mentor: Andrea McGonigle, MD
  • Laura Santoso, MD: Targeting Air Pollution Health Disparities in Obstructive Lung Disease with Human-Centered Design. Mentor: Russell Buhr, MD, PhD

Travel grant winners who will represent UCLA GME at either the Student National Medical Association or Latino Medical Student Association national conferences:

  • SNMA: Preston Igwe, MD; Varina Clark Onwyuni, MD; Angellica Gordon, MD
  • LMSA: Lydiesther Martinez, MD; Hugo Torres, MD; Christian Hernandez, MD

“The MHO Gala was an amazing opportunity for us to come together in the spirit of EDI,” said Dr. Clark Onwyuni, recipient of a travel grant. “I’m looking forward to be able to continue and expand upon these leadership efforts with institutional support in 2022.”

The Community Investment and Recruitment committee gave special thanks to GME; Dave McIntosh, vice dean of JEDI; and Clarence Braddock, III, MD, MPH, vice dean for education at DGSOM and UCLA chief medical education officer.

“We get to help build a structure for our community,” said Chase Richard, MD, a member of the Community Investment and Recruitment Committee. “The reward is living in it.”

Committee members expressed gratitude for the organization and excitement for the future.

“I’m thankful for the Community and Professional Development Committee sisterhood,” said Dr. Khan. “I am excited about the ways in which CPD will grow. It will be cool to lay the foundation for professional development for minority housestaff members.”

Dr. Khan is looking forward to the “vigor and ideas” that new members will bring to the organization.

"The gala was a celebration of the gifts we can give minority housestaff and the people who make our organization what it is," said Reza Hessabi, MD, a resident physician at UCLA Health. “I’m so excited to continue voicing truth to power with the MHO and building a better health system.”

During the closing remarks, Dr. Harris acknowledged the MHO board and Dr. Brown for all of their hard work and dedication to make the night a success.

“It is truly incredible what the MHO has achieved since July,” she said. “Medical training can be hard and organizations like the MHO provide the vital infrastructure needed to support a thriving trainee community. I look forward to working with the MHO as they continue to build community and advance health equity here at UCLA.”

Photos by Joshua Sudock/UCLA Health.